The Tetherballs of Bougainville - Mark Leyner Mark Leyner clearly has a brilliant mind and I plan to check out some more of his work. I read a review that stated this book needs to be read twice before you really get it, so maybe, I'm the one that's deficient. This book, however clever and well written it may be (and it is extremely so) didn't do it for me. It's pure style, and perhaps in 1997 when it was new, that style wouldn't have felt like a rehashing of post-modern style tropes, many of which I've seen used to more interesting effect. Remembering what I was into back then, I think I would have liked it more if I'd read it when it came out. The problem for me was that I simply didn't care about it. It was fun when I was reading it, but when I put it down, I had no pull to come back to it. By the end, I just wanted it to be done. The prose is dazzling, clever, and funny, and I think it's likely I will like his short stories better than I liked this.
Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake Easily 3.5 for the Buffy references alone.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - What a delightfully creepy little tale. Perfectly balanced in tone and structure, plot and characterization, I couldn't point to a flaw in this book if I spent all day trying.
The Crimson Petal and the White - Michel Faber In what one comes to recognize amidst the other perspectives treated within as the book's own voice, it addresses you, the reader, and invites you to come along on a journey through all levels of 1870s society. Take its hand and follow it where it goes, and you will be glad you did. I was amazed by this book. Leaving aside the power of the story and the characters for just a moment, the writing was masterful. Clever, cutting phrases deftly revealing truths physical and otherwise, a flawless narrative architecture, it was evocative, provocative, and engrossing. I was impressed with the adroit use of phrase and word repetition. It could have been heavy-handed and annoying, but instead it had the perfect light touch, using a word to describe something that was different on the surface from what was being described the last time the word was used, but without being obvious, that word would link an image to another image so that I was left with the feeling that every part of the book reflected every other part. Once again, I've seen clumsier attempts at this sort of thing, and they grate. This felt so natural that sometimes I wondered if I was imagining it. I see in many other reviews here and elsewhere that a lot of people had a big problem with the way the book ended. I thought the ending was perfect. It may be a bit of a case of forewarned is forearmed, in that I knew that I wasn't going to learn everything that happened to everyone until the day they died. I was prepared for the story to end somewhat abruptly, but I didn't actually feel that it did. Yes, the author chose not to tie everything up in a neat little bow, but to do so would have been a disservice to the complexity of the characters and the story. I was quite happy with the place the story ended. I am quite pleased to imagine on my own what happened to everyone later and I think the book gave me enough material to do so, and that that is for the best. I will be reading this book again someday, I am sure, and hope that when I seek out Faber's other work, as I undoubtably will, that it approaches the brilliance of The Crimson Petal and the White.
Draw the Dark - Ilsa J. Bick The fourth star is given only because I know where she is going with all this.This was an interesting book with a lot of plot elements that don't quite balance. Ilsa J. Bick is a wonderful writer, and in her last two books she has proven herself a master of the sophisticated dispersal of information. She knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat, driving you crazy with what she withholds from you and keeping you on the hook with what she gives. This is difficult to do, and in Draw the Dark, she hasn't quite mastered it. There were too many times when the reader is allowed to figure something out far enough ahead of the protagonist that the reader feels frustrated waiting for him to get there. The story of his parents and the Sideways Place needed just a little more integration with the rest of the story, or even just a little more resolution perhaps. I find it difficult to criticize the book much because it was so close to being just right. It has so much going for it, it's just a little more ambitious than Bick can handle. But just a little. The fascination with the brain that continues in the Ashes trilogy is evident here. Lots about Alzheimers, and PTSD and what it does not just in terms of how it feels, but what trauma and disease do to the structure of the brain. She never shies away from things that are uncomfortable, gory, or gross whether in terms of physical trauma or just how awful people can be to each other. The plot of the book just might be great, I just would have liked to read the same story written by the author in her current state of mastery. She's not quite there yet, but you can see that she has it in her. Hence the 4th star. If I hadn't read her later work, I might have given it three, though I'd have gone 3.5 if goodreads allowed it. But, I can't not know where she is headed as a writer and it makes me feel more generous.
Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo 3 and a half. 3 star first half, solidly 4 star second half. I understand that a lot of set up and world-building was necessary, but I was on the verge of not bothering to finish. Then I was suddenly very very into the story. The blurb from Veronica Roth on the front describes Shadow and Bone as like nothing she's every read before which is odd since for the first part it is exactly like everything I have ever read before, including Roth's own Divergent. Girl leaves familiar world, learns new powers, meets new people, gets some sort of makeover, undergoes personal transformation, kisses a boy. It's not a bad formula. I liked our main character right from the start, though I wanted her to be a little less of a sad sack. Never fear though, once she hits that personal transformation part of the story, she wastes no time growing into her potential. The reason I went back and forth between 3 and 4 is that the world-building takes too long. It is really not until half way through that the story picks up momentum, but once it does, wow. Suddenly not so predictable. Suddenly I'm grateful for the time she spent establishing the background though I still wish she had managed to engage me more during that time. I ended up loving this book and will for sure read the rest of the series.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia de Luce Series #4)

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows - Alan Bradley I am rounding this up because my love of Flavia, Dogger, and yes, Aunt Felicity, is strong enough to give back the half star this book should have lost. It should have lost the half star in part because of some loose threads in the plot, and partly because due to inclement weather, Gladys the bicycle was only mentioned, not featured.Still though, I could spend all day happily reading as young Flavia rhapsodizes about poison.
Princess Academy - Shannon Hale Although written at a reading level appropriate for young readers, it wasn't simplistic or lacking in substance. I had one little nitpick with the plot which would have, if goodreads allowed such a thing, have knocked half a star off, but I decided to round up rather than down. A nice easy read, I finished it in one day. I am going to add it to my Pinterest "When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books" board since I never would have wanted to appear in public with this cover, but that is what Kindles are for, right?If you want a nice, easy read that manages to still be clever, well-written, this is a good choice. It is an excellent palate cleanser between your very serious literary tomes, and if you need a gift for a middle grade to ya age reader, it would be hard to do better.
The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler I wrote in a status update when I was about half through The Long Goodbye, that reading a Raymond Chandler book is like walking through a fog and watching the landscape around you take shape as your eyes adjust. What you see at the beginning is only a hint of the overall structure of the story, and the picture gradually emerges as more details arrive. Because Chandler is such a master craftsman though, it doesn't emerge in a linear way, with one fact leading to another. It is more that the shape of things becomes clearer to you as you meet more characters and start to see the connections between the people, between the past and the present and all the possible futures. Marlowe narrates action, but he rarely lets you inside his head. He tells you what he does, but not what he thinks. He tells you what other people do and say, but doesn't tell you much of what he thinks about it, or what he speculates is behind a person's words or actions. He misses almost nothing, but keeps his conclusions to himself until he thinks the time is right to speak. Raymond Chandler is one of the greats. His sentences are spare, elegant, and effective. Marlowe is a tough guy, and a self-described romantic. By romantic, he does not mean flowers and candy and sweet words. Well, rarely sweet words. I've been trying to put my finger on what quality of his exactly causes him to describe himself that way. I think it is in his adherence to his own rules, the sense of duty he feels towards people to whom he knows he doesn't owe anything. It is in his preference for natural justice over that of the law ("The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer.") His tendency to keep going even when common sense (and a colorful cast of thugs and tycoons and lawyers) warn him off. The prose is occasionally romantic in its descriptions. For example, from Marlowe's first description of Eileen Wade: "She was unclassifiable, as remote and clear as mountain water, as elusive as its color." However, it is the wry, understated descriptions of scenes and people that fill most of the book. With a light touch of sardonic humor, and a clear eye, Marlowe sees straight to the heart of things most of the time, even when it comes to women, but that doesn't stop him from falling for people, romantically or otherwise. He doesn't go into his feelings, but the reader gets hints. Talking about a chess problem he has decided to work on one evening "Once in a long while when I feel mean enough I set it out and look for a new way to solve it. It's a nice quiet way to go crazy. You don't even scream, but you come awfully close."What struck me rereading this after maybe 20 years, is how on the nose Chandler's conception of the system remains. Speaking of big business, organized crime, petty crime, drugs, sex, government, democracy, bureaucracy, military service, alcoholism, human nature and the nature of society, he cuts through abstraction and tells you what it's about and he's right. No BS, no real judgment, just how things are.And the dialogue, oh the dialogue! "He don't run the police department," Green said. "He admits it. Doesn't even buy commissioners or D.A.'s, he said. They just kind of curl up in his lap when he's having a doze." I could go on, the entire book is beautifully quotable, but instead I will just recommend that you spend some time walking through the lightening fog with one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Many say the Long Goodbye is Chandler's masterpiece, and I would agree. Your "read" shelf is incomplete without it.


Dope - Sara Gran Sara Gran is becoming one of my favorite writers, and this little gem is my favorite of her books so far. It was close enough to perfect that I rounded it up to 5 stars despite finding the ending a little abrupt and confusing. I think I sorted out the details, but I had to stop and think it through for a while. This isn't really a problem with the book. It's common in noir for the protagonist to give you slightly less information than you need, and the circumspection of the narrator adds to the mist that seems to float through this sort of book. If Raymond Chandler wrote about New York, if Raymond Chandler was a woman, this is the sort of book he would have given us, and his influence is clear in the language and the structure.I can see Gran working her way towards the kind of story she tells in Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, a book I gave one less star than this one though I loved it too. That book is more ambitious than this one, and the simplicity of Dope allows it to be perfect. I think it was Edward Albee who said his best play was probably whichever one was shortest because there would be the fewest mistakes in it. Dope is a fairly short book, with no mistakes that I could see. Gorgeous writing, excellent story and pacing, a main character who I bought into completely, a glimpse into Hell's Kitchen in 1950, I fell in love with this novel and will be rereading it probably several times. Love.
I Don't Care About Your Band: Lessons Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I've Dated - Julie Klausner 3.5 really, because Julie Klausner is a funny and wise woman and I love her podcast. Not quite 4 stars, but an enjoyable and worthwhile read.
A Midsummer Tights Dream - Louise Rennison Silly, funny, weird, goofy, creative and clever. This is exactly what I expect from a Louise Rennison book, and she never disappoints. Also "tourettes of the legs" hee hee. Like all her books, I was able to read it in half a day, laughed out loud multiple times, and upon finishing it, longed for my next fix.
A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement - Anthony Powell To paraphrase Hitchcock: Movies are life with all the boring parts cut out. This book is all about the boring parts, but that's ok. The boring parts, where we hang out with our friends, muse on sexuality and the world we live in and ruminate on the behavior of the creatures of that world, comprise the bulk of A Dance to the Music of Time. This is, I assure you, not a boring book. It is subtle and beautifully written, insightful and relevant. I wasn't sure if I would be able to relate to a bunch of posh brits from between the wars, but I found Jenkins' voice accessible, intelligent, and yes, relatable. This is a classic for a reason, and I plan to read the rest of the movements soon.
Broken Harbour - Tana French A lot of people don't seem to like this as much as her previous books. I do think Scorcher Kennedy is harder to immediately relate to, but for me, that was an added layer of beauty. The first crack in my heart was when he referred to Frank Mackey (star of the previous book) as his "friend". It just killed me. Poor Scorcher, he doesn't really have any friends. Never had a real friend, never could have a real friend, and his quiet hunger for human connection ripped right through me, slowly slowly slowly, but effectively. I find myself thinking about this book frequently, no less so than Tana French's 3 other outstanding novels. Though it is no accident that her stories center around murders and police detectives, they are not procedurals. They are more character studies than anything else though giving them that name similarly limits them. There is no one like Tana French out there that I have found, and I look forward to reading and re-reading her books for the rest of my life. This one I've only read once so far, but the others I've read twice each and will re-read again regularly. They join the ranks of my all-time favorite books because every time I read them, they reveal something new to me, some layer, some gesture that I didn't pay attention to the last time, some line of dialogue that stabs me in a slightly different place than last time. These books leave scar tissue, and they are scars I am proud to carry.
The Body Finder - Kimberly Derting 2.5 really. I mean, it was better than Twilight, at moments quite good, but not really worthwhile. There were times when the writing was straight out of Sweet Valley High, including the weird fat-shaming that ran through all those books. Other times the author beautifully, vividly captured the feeling of being close to someone you have a crush on, physical attraction, falling in love. A lot of heteronormative bs (and there was A LOT) can be forgiven as these kids are in high school, when such attitudes reign supreme. For a book with a female lead though, a female who you are supposed to see as strong and interesting, there was way too much patriarchal protect-the-poor-wittle-baby-girls running through this for my taste. In fact, it reminded me of Twilight a bit. Decent romance, but nothing special.

Insurgent (Divergent Series #2)

Insurgent (Divergent Series #2) - OK, you got me, Roth.

Currently reading

The Orphan Master's Son
The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms, #3)
Cinda Williams Chima